The best arguments right now against the Yankees benching Gleyber Torres or optioning him to the alternate site to work on his hitting and defense -- that’s right, we said optioning -- might be Gio Urshela’s inexperience at shortstop and Tyler Wade’s light bat.
Stop rolling your eyes. Yes, that is a hot take. But we don’t do this very often. Calling for people’s jobs, even temporarily, is serious business.
In this case, Torres’ lack of both production and hustle make him a compelling candidate to show the rest of the group that the vibe must change.
It’s not a birthright to start games for the New York Yankees, even if you’re one of the most talented players on the team. It might be worth a shot for the front office to remind the entire group that these jobs must be earned on a daily basis.
Torres could yet become a perennial All-Star, and it’s not his fault that he’s assigned to a position that, while familiar to him, is clearly not the best spot to encourage confidence and success.
But the Yankees are playing under a deep malaise, and appear in need of a jolt. Torres seems to have drifted from the approach that made him a more complete hitter as a rookie than he is now, and his lack of hustle on Wednesday was egregious enough to inspire a rare bit of public criticism from Aaron Boone.
In the seventh inning of the 4-1 loss to Atlanta, Torres dropped a check-swing squibber in front of the plate. As Braves pitcher Ian Anderson and catcher Travis d’Arnaud rushed to field the ball, Torres jogged to first, failing to show urgency or effort.
“Any time you’ve got that kind of situation where a guy has got to get off the mound, you got to get after it,” Boone said, adding that he would speak to Torres about the play.
“I think initially the check swing, he just probably in his mind [thought] foul ball right away, and then it’s like, ‘Oh no, I’ve got to get going.’ And then you’re a little late. I mean, that’s got to be a little bit better, obviously.”
"It was a check swing, and in that moment, really I didn't know if it was fair or foul,” Torres said. “I didn't see the ball well and I started to run late. I can put a little more effort running to first base."
Torres’ behavior proved a stark contrast to Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna, who twice beat throws to first because he sprinted down the line.
Is there a deeper issue with the Yankees’ culture? On Monday, GM Brian Cashman rejected the idea that his team is playing with extra pressure because the talented core hasn’t yet seen a World Series. Both Cashman and Boone defended the general effort and dedication of the players.
To be sure, it’s easy for a team to look sluggish when mired in a collective slump. A lack of production does not mean a lack of trying or caring. But failure to run out a ball often does.
The Yankees front office believes in its process, and is justified in feeling that way. The team won 100 and 103 games over the last full two seasons, and lost a tight October series to Tampa Bay in 2020. The strong feeling emanating from the team in recent days is that by simply staying the course, the Yanks will find their way.
But would a week or two of Wade be worse than Torres’ .182 batting average and .515 OPS? Could Urshela slide over (provided his lower back tightness heals quickly) and make way for a bit of Derek Dietrich at third?
It is worth considering. The Yankees’ problems are not nearly all Torres’ fault, but he’s optionable, struggling and showing a lack of hustle.
Why not remind him -- and by extension any other player who might need it -- that he works in a results-oriented business, and that his job is a privilege, not a right?